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The Joy of Giving and the Balance It Brings - Volunteer Organizations at Work

Written by: Mike Nicholas, VP of Customer Service, ZenossZenoss Cares

In today's hybrid work environment where time is split between working from the office and working from home, it is more important than ever to build cross-team communication, interactions and company culture. It is too easy for our most valuable assets, individuals, to get out of balance and out of touch with the company as a whole. A company volunteer organization provides a great opportunity to restore balance and renew energy. We have found that having a monthly opportunity to come together for a volunteer opportunity has amazing benefits.

A few of the primary benefits of having a company-sponsored volunteer organization include cross-team relationship-building, the sense of fulfillment from helping others, giving back to the community, and employee interaction outside of work.

At Zenoss, we have our Zenoss Cares team that has been running strong for over 10 years. There is a Zenoss core value, "People Who Do," that is there to promote participation in these activities. The Zenoss Cares events have had great success by working with the company as a whole. The team listens to feedback from volunteers and uses that data to drive the most benefits from each event.

Reflecting back on 2022, there were many great events that offered a variety of options for Zenoss volunteers. A few of those included helping out at the Thinkery children’s museum, blood drives, Backpack Friends, holiday food drive, Salvation Army Angel Tree, and the Texas Adopt-a-Highway program.

The Texas Adopt-a-Highway program is our longest-running volunteer activity at just past eight years and over 800 bags of trash collected. Each pickup seems to unearth some "treasures" to share post-event — our most recent pickup providing an extremely rare, vintage and near-mint Eddie Rabbitt CD in its original case along with a barely used Batman cape! (It’s Texas — we don’t ask questions.)

If you do not have a volunteer organization at your company, I wanted to share a few key items that will help you be successful quickly and promote participation.

  • Get a small core volunteer team to organize events. Ideally, a representative from each department so that they can promote events to their groups.
  • Refresh the core volunteer team annually. This promotes fresh ideas and increases participation when a time limit is in place. (Avoid the volunteer life sentence.)
  • Have volunteer opportunities occur during work hours. Typically, there is an opportunity once a month that lasts two to four hours. Limited downtime for a great return on employee morale-building.
  • Vary the events. We found that some events outside, some inside, and some that get your hands dirty seem to provide opportunities for everyone.
  • No cash required. While it adds a level of complexity, we really try to pick events and organizations where it is about donating time.
  • Plan something post-event. I cannot stress this one enough, and it's where company sponsorship comes in. Take everyone to a nearby watering hole and buy some apps and a round or two of drinks to say thank you. The volunteers get an opportunity to reflect back on the event, and it really brings a lot of joy hearing the stories.

Looking forward to 2023, I would encourage companies to start a volunteer program if they do not have one already. The benefits are huge, and it really helps build a solid team spirit. Congratulations to those that do have a volunteer group as well. Good luck with planning and remember to mix up the activities so everyone can get involved. Most of all, have fun, take pictures and build good memories.

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